27. By Fading Light, Before the Feast
Our youngest co-wife has been taken to her bed in a faint. From the way she screamed and clutched her belly when she heard the ill news, the midwife thinks there is reason to fear for the child.
Our husband-mother keeps busy. Grimly, smoothly, quickly do her well-trained hands assemble the funeral feast. She sips heated honey to nourish her throat for the long nights of lamentation ahead. She lets no one, man or woman or child, see her eyes for more than a moment.
There is a division among the children, between those who are old enough to understand and those who are not. Among the first, some sob wildly, throw themselves upon the ground, tear their hair; others try to be brave. The second, they are all talking about the new King. How many Orcs must he have to win this war? What mighty wraith-lords and wicked spells and terrible beasts? How many of our men will this one demand? They are afraid - but they also want to see.
There is a darker rumor still - that he has none of these things. That his power is that much greater. I fear the twilight of our people is at hand if this is true. We will go bravely to dust beside our men if we must, for is there ever another way that war can end? I have no faith this new King will bring an end to it, as none has ever before.
What use would it be for me to grope around longer in the dark? Already the sun of my life has set.
He taught me to read and to write, although it is not the custom for women. He told the elders he wanted a scribe for his clan, and at that time there was yet no son. By the tallow-lamp at night he brought me his poems of love on the sheepskin paper. I keep a sheaf of them still, well-hidden. They should be buried with him, but I shall keep them still, because his voice is still in them. If Ashkeya's child lives, he or she will be the last and should have them. If the new King lets us live, even if it is a daughter I shall teach her to read them.
At first she will be afraid to give her heart. She will see that her warrior-poet father took mine to his death, and now I have none. Yet we women of the Haradrim are brave, so if she survives, the fear will not stop her.
Memorial Day Challenge - 477 words.
This is a work of fan fiction, written because the author has an abiding love for the works of J R R Tolkien. The characters, settings, places, and languages used in this work are the property of the Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises, and possibly New Line Cinema, except for certain original characters who belong to the author of the said work. The author will not receive any money or other remuneration for presenting the work on this archive site. The work is the intellectual property of the author, is available solely for the enjoyment of Henneth Annûn Story Archive readers, and may not be copied or redistributed by any means without the explicit written consent of the author.